First Nations

What we know about First Nations digital inclusion so far, and an introduction to the Mapping the Digital Gap project.

Mapping the Digital Gap Project

People living in Australia’s 1,100 remote First Nations [1] communities are among the most digitally excluded Australians.

The Mapping The Digital Gap project, funded by Telstra and based at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society is working with 8-10 communities over a four-year period (2021-2024) to: 

  1. Generate a detailed account of the distribution of digital inclusion and the uses of digital services including news and media across 8-10 First Nations communities; 
  2. Track changes in measures of digital inclusion for these communities over time; and 
  3. Inform the development of appropriate local strategies for improving digital inclusion capabilities and services enabling informed decision-making in First Nations communities.

The research is currently in the first stage of data collection. Data and findings will be shared on this page.

Phone tower located in rural Australia
Dirt road in outback Australia.

What we know so far

While the ADII provides valuable insight into the dynamics of digital inclusion experienced across the country, the sample poses some limitations for reporting on First Nations peoples digital inclusion. The ADII draws on a national sample which does not provide sufficient First Nations respondents to generate reliable data. The Index therefore does not provide a score for First Nations populations.

In 2018 and 2019, ADII case studies were conducted in the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Ali Curung in the Northern Territory, and Pormpuraaw in far north Queensland

These studies showed that digital inclusion for First Nations Australians diminishes with remoteness, particularly in terms of Access and Affordability. In both communities there was a heavy reliance on mobile connectivity and the key barrier to digital inclusion was Affordability, especially in relation to income. 

However, the research also showed high levels of Digital Ability, underlining the importance and potential benefits of digital services for remote communities. These factors vary greatly from site to site, so more detailed research is urgently needed. 

Resolving First Nations digital disadvantage is critically important. The Australian Government has recently acknowledged this in the creation of a new Closing the Gap Target (Target 17) for digital inclusion and access to relevant media services, championed by First Nations Media Australia and the Coalition of Peaks. At the time of writing, we understand that work is ongoing on developing the data collection necessary for measuring progress towards Target 17.

The Mapping the Digital Gap project is intended to make a valuable contribution to the understanding of digital inclusion in remote communities, and to the development of the strategies which will required to improve outcomes.


[1]  First Nations is used here to describe people who identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. We acknowledge the diversity of First Nations communities and extend our respects to the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia.

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